Monday, March 28, 2016

Our 2nd Amendment

By TN Senator Mark Green, M.D.
Guest columnist for the Language of Liberty® series

On December 15, 1791 the states which comprised our fledgling democracy ratified ten amendments which became known as the Bill of Rights.

The preamble to the Bill of Rights states, “the conventions of a number of states …expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers.” The intent of the Founders was to restrain government abuses, the amendments contained in the Bill designed to be checks and balances on government authority. The second amendment reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”   

Here, the founders write that to keep the state free, people have the right to keep and bear arms. The “why” we need a second amendment is clear: to protect a free state - to protect freedom.

James Madison initially proposed these amendments on June 8, 1789. Only six years earlier, in 1783, the Treaty of Paris  ending the War with King George was signed. The final agreement with England on America’s boundaries did not occur until 1795 with the Jay Treaty. The Bill of Rights was passed within eight years of a bloody war in which citizen soldiers picked up their own weapons and overthrew a tyrannical government. It is clear the authors of the second amendment intended to provide the citizenry a means to defend freedom from abusive governments, whether existing at home or abroad.

While enabling citizens to protect themselves from other citizens, the second amendment goes well beyond just allowing us to protect our life or property from a criminal. Considering the timing of its writing and the men who penned and ratified the Bill of Rights, the right to keep and bear arms was to be the ultimate check and balance against tyranny. Further, considering the mistrust of free-standing armies at the time of it’s writing and the success of militias during the Revolution, the armed citizenry were for all intent and purpose, the last line of defense of freedom. Our founders firmly believed each citizen had a part to play in that defense.

When considering magazine size and weapon type, comments like “you don’t need a ten round magazine to hunt deer,” completely misses the point of the second amendment. If the founding fathers meant weapons in the hands of citizens were only for hunting, why say “for the security of a free state?” As yet there has been no documented overthrow of any nation by its deer population.

From a practical standpoint, with the purpose being to protect people from tyranny and to secure a free state, the American people should be permitted ownership of any weapon which allows for a balance of power between the citizens and the government. If government employees can have an M-16, then so should the citizens.

Furthermore, arguments suggesting that banning weapons decreases crime have been shown to be utterly false. A Wall Street Journal Op Ed written by John Lott and published on January 17, 2013 points out that even the studies sited by Senator Feinstein of California never showed any decrease in crime.  A follow up study by the National Institute of Justice concluded, “we cannot clearly credit the [assault weapons] ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence. And, indeed, there has been no discernable reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence.”  

The Op Ed also points out that since the end of the assault weapons ban in September of 2004, murder and crime rates have actually decreased in America. However the greatest wisdom in the Op Ed is Mr. Lott’s observation that “with a single exception, the attack in Tucson last year, every public shooting in the US in which more than three people have been killed since 1950 has occurred in a place where citizens are not allowed to carry their own firearms.”   

In recent years, as our enemies in the War on Terror evolve their tactics, the importance of one of the original intents of the Second Amendment has re-emerged. Early on, Al Qaeda used cells involving multiple people. Any clandestine activity has a higher risk of discovery when multiple people are involved. The FBI, CIA, and NSA’s disruption of many cells from Washington to New York prove this. Now, ISIS uses “lone wolves,” as seen in Dallas and Chattanooga in 2015. In fact, the terror organization transmits over 100,000 tweets per day recruiting lone wolves. No matter how good the three-letter agencies are, they can never stop every lone wolf. However, an armed citizen can.

In this fight our citizens truly are, as Ralph Bristol of Nashville’s 99.7 WTN talk radio says, “Homeland Security.”

The framers of our nation’s Constitution and its amendments intended to protect the citizens and allow the citizens to protect themselves. These men were surely imbued with a wisdom that transcends time. As the president of the NRA recently said, “the only guy who can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Whether to protect themselves from a tyrannical government or a criminal bent on destruction, citizens of this nation have an inalienable right guaranteed by the second amendment to the Constitution to keep and bear arms. I will defend that right as long as there is breath in me.

The Language of Liberty® series is a collaborative effort of the Center for Self Governance (CSG) Administrative Team. CSG is a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization, dedicated to training citizens in applied civics. The authors include trainers, administrative staff, selected students, and guest columnists. The views expressed by the authors are their own and do not reflect the views of CSG. They may be contacted at the Center for Self Governance.

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